Web Content Management (WCM) Deep-Dive in SharePoint 2013 & Office 365
EPC Group’s SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 information architecture consultants have worked on a large number of enterprise SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 initiatives with a strong client focus on Web Content Management and this blog post will provide a deep-dive around our recent “from the trenches” experiences.
SharePoint 2013 does come with a number of new Web Content Management (WCM) features as well as major improvements in features that were available in SharePoint 2010’s release.
The improvements around cross-site publishing as well as the ability to present powerful video to users while introducing new content embedding capabilities have been met with great feedback by end users and content owners.
New features around content authoring, the use of digital assets, as shown in the image below, image renditions, clean URLs and more powerful metadata navigation capabilities allow SharePoint administrators to meet the needs of the business while being able to lean on the out-of-the-box capabilities of SharePoint 2013.
Overview of Content Authoring in SharePoint 2013
The following list the core features of SharePoint 2013’s WCM capabilities:
- Custom Error \ 404 Pages
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools and the Analysis Engine, as shown in the first image below.
- Image Renditions and Video Improvements, as shown in the second image below.
- Cross-Site Publishing
- Product Catalog
- Managed Navigation
- Friendly URLs
Architecture Overview of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Analysis Engine and the related page framework functionality.
Overview of the Improved User Experience with new Image and Video Capabilities
Custom 404 \ Error Pages
The ability to create a custom error or “404 \ Not Found” page is a “nice-to-have capability” that a lot of organizations really do not take advantage or in their implementations.
I do think this is something that should be implemented as it only takes a small amount of time to tailor these pages and provides users with more direction regarding next steps and how to possibly provide themselves with self-help support, but is not taken advantage of in many deployment efforts.
A Standard Error or 404 Not Found Page
You are able to create custom “404 \ Not Found” page via SharePoint’s interface or using Windows PowerShell.
Note: To create a Publishing site, you can create a new site collection and then select the Publishing tab and then Publishing Portal option, as shown in the image below.
Creating a new Publishing Site in Office 365’s SharePoint Online
All the Publishing sites contain a “404 \ Not Found” page named “PageNotFoundError.aspx” which resides in the Pages library, as shown in image below, which you can find by clicking on Site Contents.
You can then open the “PageNotFoundError.aspx” and edited to meet your organization’s specific needs.
The Page library in Office 365’s SharePoint Online
SharePoint 2013 and Office 365’s SharePoint Online also contains a new Error Page content type which can be located in the Site Content Types Gallery, as shown in the image below.
Site Content Types Gallery
This Content type Inherits from “Page” Content type and has the standard layout of “404 \ Not Found” pages. In SharePoint Server 2013, this can be found under Site Settings and then Content Types.
In Office 365’s SharePoint Online, in a publishing page this can be found under Site Settings and then Site Content Types under the Web Designer Galleries category, as shown in the image below.
Showing Web Designer Galleries within the Site Settings page of a Publishing Page in Office 365’s SharePoint Online
To create a new “404 \ Not Found” page using SharePoint’s UI, an administrator can go to the Pages Library and under the Files tab, click on “New Document” and then select “Error Page,” as shown in the image below.
Creating a new Error Page using SharePoint’s User Interface
To create a new “404 \ Not Found” page using SharePoint’s UI, an administrator can go to the Pages Library and under the Files tab, click on “New Document” and then select “Error Page,” as shown in the image above.
The Create Page screen, as shown in the image below, will then load and then you can specify the details and modify the configurations required for this new “Error Page” for your organization. Once you have completed the custom configurations you then must check-in and publish the page to make it available.
The Create Page to begin specifying the details for the new custom Error Page for your organization.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools and the Analysis Engine
SharePoint 2013 provides for search engine optimization (SEO) enhancements for organization that are utilizing SharePoint as their internet-facing site. These SEO enhancements provide organization’s improved search results for external and anonymous internet users performing a search via a search engine such as Google or Bing.
By improving search results via these SEO enhancements, your organization will have a competitive edge and have a much better chance of being recognized and increasing your organization’s overall bottom line.
SharePoint 2013 includes features such as XML sitemaps, friendly URLs, home page redirects and custom SEO properties. These features allow you to define Meta tag descriptions, browser titles for sites as well as variation capabilities to drive any Multilanguage requirements of your organization.
SharePoint Server 2013 on-premises implementations allow you to tailor your sitemaps as well as specify the search engines you would like your site to ping. SharePoint Online capabilities in Office 365 generates an updated XML sitemap for your organization within 24 hours of site and related topology or navigational changes.
An overall high-level list of new SEO improvements are as follows:
- Clean URLs
- Home Page Redirects
- Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
- XML Sitemaps
- SEO Properties including meta tag descriptions
- Webmaster Tools integration
Image Renditions and Video Improvements
SharePoint 2013 provides for new and added capabilities around managing and presenting images and videos within sites and related pages. SharePoint 2013’s image renditions capability allow you to dynamically modify the image to best fit the overall “site presentation” and experience you are wanting to display to your users. These renditions are actual thumbnails which are created automatically and cached to allow for you to have consistency sized images to display within your site.
This feature allows you to optimize your sites and pages payload to help ensure you to not have images that are causing major bandwidth and page load issues. It also allow you to crop an image to allow for targeting a specific area within a picture similar to how you would perform cropping when uploading a picture to a LinkedIn or My Site profile.
SharePoint 2013’s video improvements and new capabilities include the ability to meet specific business requirements like creating an enterprise podcast series. The additional video improvements in SharePoint 2013,Office 365 and/or SharePoint Online include:
- The ability to embed videos to any content page
- New video thumbnail generation is automated
- Provide renditions for videos just like those of image renditions
- The ability to support external videos
- Capabilities for multiple encodings for single video
- A new native HTML 5 video player
- Capabilities to provide fallback to Silverlight as needed
- SharePoint 2013 provides for a new video content type
- Content authors are able to select from a specific frame from a video also use the selected frame and use that as the thumbnail preview image.
Note: To be able to utilize the automated thumbnail creation feature, the Desktop Experience feature must be installed and configured on the front-end web server(s) of SharePoint Server 2013.
Content authors have the ability to insert an IFrame element into an HTML field on a site that utilize embed dynamic content that already exists from other sites and pages such as videos, maps, or other relevant content.
SharePoint automatically trusts some external domains that are already approved for use in IFrames and SharePoint administrators and site collection owners can customizes and implement governance around the field security settings that allow whether external domains are trusted for use within the environment
Note: To modify and update the field security settings for a site collection, click HTML Field Security on a site’s Site Settings page.
EPC Group Tip: In order to utilize image renditions within your organization in SharePoint Server 2013, you must first ensure that you have enabled the BLOB cache.
The Cross-Site Collection Publishing feature in SharePoint Server 2013 allow you to utilize one or more authoring site collections to author and store documents and content as well as one or more publishing site collections to control the overall design of the site and its content display.
An authoring site collection(s) contains catalogs which are lists, libraries and pages with content that is tagged with specific metadata and terms (content types), as shown in the first image below. These catalogs are then indexed by SharePoint’s search and are available to the publishing site collection.
Queries for data are issues by the indexed publishing site collection and are shown on pages by using Web Parts (SharePoint 2013 Search Web Parts, as shown in the second image below. In essence, you then brand the content on the publishing site via custom master pages, page layouts and display templates.
This capability of using “catalog-enabled” sites works extremely well for organizations who want to heavily utilize features such as content repositories, knowledge base \ knowledge management or for a product catalog.
Overview of Cross-Site Publishing and the related components
Note: The cross-site publishing is currently only available in SharePoint Server 2013 but if your organization is utilizing SharePoint Online, you can use the author-in-place method to publish content. It is also important to note that the search driven publishing features are only available for private site collections.
In SharePoint Server 2013, cross-site publishing provides the following benefits:
- Provides a broad range of possible site architectures
- Allows for a mix of authored pages and list content
- Separates content authoring from branding and rendering
- Allows content to be shared anonymously with users on the publishing site
- Can be used across site collections, web applications, and also across farms
- Allows for a mix of authored pages and list content
Available Types of Content to be utilized for Cross-Site Publishing
There are multiple types of content that can be utilized for cross-site publishing in the libraries and lists of the authoring site collection(s).
The following list describes the different types of content that you can use in an authoring site collection.
- Pages library
- You can utilize a Pages library to create any HTML content that you plan to reuse across site collections and take advantage of the Approval workflow and content scheduling features that are part of the SharePoint publishing feature set.
Note: You can have only one Pages library per site. However, you can have multiple sites within a site collection and then place the Pages library content into separate catalogs.
- Document library: You can utilize one or more standard SharePoint document libraries to store files such as Word and Excel documents. Due to the fact that these types of files are also considered binary large object files (BLOBs), you must then treat Document libraries in the same manner that you treat Asset libraries.
- List: You can utilize one or more lists to store any type of data that is better stored in a list than in Pages library content.
- Asset library: You can utilize one or more Asset libraries to store binary large object files (BLOBs) such as pictures, audio, or video files, as long as those files contain the primary content that you are wanting to show on the publishing site. Asset libraries that are used to contain BLOBs that are referenced by Pages or lists, such as PDFs or product images, represent a different type of content and are handled differently for utilization in cross-site publishing.
Term Set Tagging in Cross-Site Publishing
Term sets are used to tag content in authoring sites and when content is tagged with one or more terms, the terms become part of the metadata (content types) that is associated with the content.
When the search system adds content to the index, it also adds the associated metadata and that metadata is later used in the publishing site collections when content is shown on pages and when it is utilized for managed navigation.
Catalog Configuration in Cross-Site Publishing
Once you share lists and libraries for use as catalogs, you can then start to reuse this content across publishing site collections. When these lists or libraries are shared as a catalog you must specify that you want to share them with other sites and site collections or optionally choose to enable anonymous access to the content in the catalog.
Each catalog allows you to select up to five fields that are used to uniquely identify items in the catalog and you also specify a single managed metadata field that is used as a navigation term set in the publishing site collections.
Once a library or list is shared as a catalog and the content has been crawled and indexed, you are able to them connect to it from a publishing site collection.
There must be at least one piece of content added to a list or library before it is shared as a catalog and you must also tag it with a term from the tagging term set. When the managed metadata site column that is associated with the tagging term set is created, it is required to be a single value field.
Catalog connections in SharePoint 2013
In order for content to be shared from an authoring site collection, there must be a catalog connections configured in the publishing site collection that will consume those catalogs.
When you configure catalog connections, you specify which catalogs the publishing site collection will use to show this content and specify granular details around information such as whether to integrate catalog content into the site or where the categories to use for navigation should reside.
You also specify the term set that was used for tagging as well as how category item URLs should be constructed.
Category Pages and Catalog Item Pages in SharePoint 2013
Category pages and catalog item pages are page layouts that you can use to show structured catalog content consistently across a site. By default, SharePoint Server 2013 can automatically create one category page layout and one catalog item page layout per catalog connection.
Pages based on these layouts are created in the Pages library of a publishing site when you connect the site to a catalog. These pages have the following considerations:
- You should edit the HTML of the page layouts and the category page layout and the catalog item page layout are meant to be used to get you started. These are also not published specifically for you.
- When you edit the HTML page layouts, they are automatically synced back to the corresponding ASPX pages but if you prefer to edit the ASPX pages directly, you should first delete the HTML version of the page.
Product Catalog in SharePoint 2013
The Product Catalog feature in SharePoint 2013 is based on the SharePoint Product Catalog site template and is a site that allows a content owner or content manager to create content that will be utilized and published within a site or even within SharePoint’s search.
You can optionally activate the Cross-Site Collection Publishing feature on a specific site rather than creating this site template if you are wanting to use SharePoint lists and libraries as catalogs. It is important to note that there are additional configuration options that must be enabled if you choose to activate the cross-site collection publishing feature rather than creating a SharePoint Product Catalog site from the template.
Note: The Product Catalog is only available On-Premises Enterprise SharePoint.
Managed Navigation in SharePoint 2013
Managed navigation allows you to define and maintain the navigation on a site by using term sets, as shown in the first image below, as this navigation allows you to add to or supplement SharePoint’s OOTB SharePoint navigation that is, by default, based on your implementations overall site structure.
The managed navigation structure is created by adding terms to term sets via the Term Store Management tool, as shown in the second image below, which also provides for the capability to enable you to copy the navigation term set and translate it into the languages that are used for variations labels within your organization.
SharePoint 2013’s Term Store Management Tool
You are able to combine some elements of term sets from different site collections in order to create an overall navigational structure of a site.
For example, one term set could be utilized for the navigation of a product non-product pages with another term set for product pages.
In summary, SharePoint 2013’s managed navigation’s key elements provide for:
- The ability to allow you to drive your navigation and URLs based on Term Store hierarchies
- Provides for Clean URLs for actual end users
- Allows you to define settings for navigation in terms store manager
- Provides for dynamic category pages capability by minimizing the amount of physical pages required for catalog type sites
SharePoint 2013’s Friendly URLs capability is extremely straightforward in that these URLs are links that are correspond directly to a term within your organization or on a particular site or page as well as correspond to your organization’s navigation term set.
The .aspx is no longer required after site or page name as well as the default.aspx page can be dropped from the URLs reference entirely.
For example, in previous version of SharePoint, you may have had to reference an entire URL such as:
Where as in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365’s SharePoint Online, you can now simply reference:
Multilingual Sites in SharePoint 2013, Office 365 and/or SharePoint Online
Based on your organization’s business and technical requirements, you may require multilingual SharePoint capabilities within your organization. I have been a part of a large number of these efforts and the new capabilities of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365’s SharePoint Online has made this task much easier on the project team and the level of measurable successful within your reach.
A lot of organizations, for example, state that they support “English only” within their SharePoint environments but there seems to be custom site collections pop-up at times with language packs or custom deployments in other languages to support specific locations.
There is the new Multiple Language Interface (MLI) which, in essence, tells a specific sites interface to be available and utilize a specific language pack. It is also important to note that this feature changes elements such as titles, navigations elements, and menus but any embedded “custom text” or content does not automatically change to the specified language.
You can think of this content as being in “a container of its own” and outside of the feature set so it is important to keep this in mind in your planning.
Variations is the feature that makes multilingual sites possible and is available for publishing sites and creates a duplicate copy of the site and updates it into the specified variation language when it is published and translated.
You will need to install at least a few core language packs for the languages your organization wishes to support.
There are over 40 available language packs for SharePoint 2013, as listed in the table below.
Although you may not think you will initially or possible ever utilize other language packs, there may be documents that are emailed or uploaded to SharePoint from partners, clients, or team members that have other languages embedded in them or were possibly created from a template set in another language and this can cause search to not properly return search results for this content.
With that in mind, EPC Group recommends that you installing the following language packs within your implementation:
- Chinese (Traditional)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
Language packs that are available for SharePoint Foundation 2013, SharePoint Server 2013, and SharePoint Online.
|Language||SharePoint Server 2013||SharePoint Online|
When you install Language Packs, you are required to install them on each and every SharePoint Server (e.g. Web Front-end and Application Servers) within your organization’s farm.
Internet Explorer as well as other popular browsers managed regional settings used by the browser within the browser itself.
Translation Services with SharePoint 2013
SharePoint 2013 has a new Machine Translation Services service application which allows you to update your site or page’s content to be translated by a cloud service depending on the security and proxy settings on your organization and related governance policies.
I have worked on several initiatives that have language packs that may have a few different variations so having a content owner of the translated or variation site is key so that they can review it for any errors or proper “word usage” for that region prior to publishing.
For example, EPC Group recently completed a SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 hybrid cloud deployment with an organization based in the US but with several offices in South America in which Portuguese was the standard language of these other offices.
The translation service as well as variations did not 100% properly translate the Portuguese of these offices due to regional dialect and it was key to establish a content owner for these sites which worked closely with the US office to ensure all content was accurate.
Variations in SharePoint 2013
Variations in SharePoint Server 2013, as depicted in the first image below as well as the second image below, drive the core multilingual capabilities that make this powerful feature possible. Users within your organization who visit a site are automatically redirected to the appropriate variation site based on the language setting of their web browser.
Variations provide for:
- The use of industry standard XLIFF file format
- This can include an entire list or library or simply one page or navigation element
- Improved throughput for creating new language sites
SharePoint 2013’s Variations
Content authors can nominate lists on source variation sites to be propagated to target variation sites and list items such as documents and images propagate independently from pages.
The Variations feature can provide significant performance improvements as well as enabling bulk export of pages.
There is also added logging functionality around variations to help administrators monitor as well as improve the usefulness of the feature by reviewing error messages and logs and resolving any underlying issues.
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Additional “From the Consulting Trenches” strategies and methodologies are covered in EPC Group’s new book, “Sharepoint 2013 Field Guide: Advice from the Consulting Trenches” covering not only SharePoint 2013, Office 365 and SharePoint Online but Information Management, ECM\RM and overall compliance strategies in this ever changing world of “Hybrid IT.”
With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud eﬀorts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.
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